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Uncertainty still shrouds the RDR and segmenting your client base is a complex exercise. This is where technology can greatly enhance an IFA’s productivity, making choosing the right tools paramount

Nick Eatock, Chief executive officer, IntelliFlo
Nick Eatock, Chief executive officer, IntelliFlo

The retail distribution review has caused significant debate among financial professionals. Uncertainty continues to shroud the RDR and there is considerable industry angst surrounding the future of financial services. The FSA has introduced a number of industry guidelines that indicate what will be required in 2012 and, importantly, highlight how advantageous the use of technology can be to advisory businesses
both pre- and post-RDR.

Undoubtedly, a strong service proposition is at the heart of any intermediary business, outlining to each client the type of service on offer for the amount of remuneration earned – this could be a simple or multifarious proposition.

Depending on the levels of service offered to multiple client groups or segments, the complexity of the services may well be altered or varied. Now to roll this out to an extensive client base could then become an extremely complex and timeconsuming operation. Bearing in mind the requirement for IFAs to justify fees (with commission being abolished in 2012), it becomes clear that the only way to make a profit is to work as efficiently as possible.

From implementing new business to ongoing reviews, transparent costs should be outlined from the outset in order for the client to know exactly what service to expect.

Some clients are happy to ’self-serve’ and by offering technology services, advisers can enhance the client experience while freeing time to build other areas of their business

While offering the best possible service to clients, at the end of the day, IFAs are running a business and so have to make ends meet. As we all know, it is hard enough to source and win new clients in addition to servicing existing ones.

As an advisory practice, clients need to be segmented. This is not only beneficial from a service point of view but also ensures more efficient and effective marketing. Again, using a technology platform can greatly enhance IFA productivity.

For example, not only from a single client review but also when actively marketing to other existing clients.

We have seen from the recent Gartner research that there are three main denominators that businesses are looking to achieve in 2011 – to grow, while attracting and retaining new customers, and also reducing operational costs.

So how do advisory practices develop their growth potential? Initially, this could be writing more business with their current client bank or alternatively actively marketing to potential customers (or a combination of the two).

Develop funds under management perhaps? Either way, an IFA needs a comprehensive yet easy to use technology solution to help bear the burden of the administrative tasks that derive from such activity.

Being a good adviser also means that best business practice should be followed – spending too many hours on a “nonprofitable” client does not make sense and is often to the detriment of other clients. Efficient tools will need to be in place to allow advisory practices an end to end process to service both new and existing clients.

How much should a client be charged per hour? The long and laborious process of fact-finding which encompasses research, quotations, compliance tasks, reporting and management information, etc, per client can easily engulf the practice resources and therefore eat into profitability.

Furthermore, IFA businesses would like to interact better and smarter with their clients, seeing them face to face and recommending solutions for their financial and investment needs. This is also another great way to encourage referrals and client retention.Some technology solutions offer the ability for clients to log in to a web portal, enabling them to view their fact-find information and their current holdings. This functionality
can be built into an adviser’s service proposition – in an era when clients are more empowered and expect/ demand higher levels of service
and commitments, this is a powerful tool for an IFA to have at their disposal.

This can aid client relationships, offer them fantastic value for money and help to build brand loyalty as many of the portals can be directlyattached to the intermediary’s website. Some clients are to some extent happy to “selfserve” and by offering additional services such as these,
advisory practices can effectively enhance the client experience while freeing time to build other areas of the business.

The RDR also requires advisers to meet higher level qualification requirements, offering either independent or restricted advice. It seems that the majority of current advisers have decided to stay within the financial services industry and are committed to their careers post-RDR.

In addition to studying for these exams, advisers will still need to run their businesses and technology solutions can bring huge benefits in efficiency and time management.

In a series of articles, IntelliFlo will focus on specific areas of RDR and how technology can streamline intermediary businesses both preand
post-RDR.

There are many options in the marketplace, all offering different ways to enhance a business process. What one needs to consider is how
technology can fit in and around a business system and not introduce a heavy administrative burden.

One thing is for sure – choosing the right technology is paramount to running an efficient and successful advisory practice, both now and
post-RDR.

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